Email Deliverability

How to improve your email open rate - 5 factors to consider

July 9, 2024
7 min.

In 2024…

With stricter rules from email service providers and more unforgiving spam filters…

It’s harder than ever to actually get your emails opened!

The good news is that you’re far from powerless.

So let us help you regain your power by sharing five factors that are affecting your open rate.

Factor 1: Your sender reputation 📤

Even when using a tool to send out emails…

You should always use your own domain to send them. (, not

Thousands of other customers are probably using your sending tool’s domain.

Not all of them are keeping clean email hygiene. Some are bound to be outright spammers!

Sending through the same server as all these folks will hurt your sender reputation and, thus, your open rate.

Instead, you use your own domain (not your main domain) to send emails.

The problem is that if your domain is new, it has no sender reputation to speak of. In that case, most of your emails will land in the spam folder.

So let’s change that:

Warm up your email

If you have a new sending domain that hasn’t sent out many emails yet, you need to start slowly.

Charging out of the gate and sending hundreds of daily emails is precisely what a spammer would do.

And Internet Service Providers know this. They will lower your sender reputation if you start sending emails recklessly.

Instead, you need to warm up your email, which is the process of gradually increasing your sending volume and frequency.

But just sending emails isn’t enough, either…

You also need to get replies to them so that ISPs know that your emails are valuable enough to, well, get replies!

Doing all this manually is not easy; that’s why warm-up services like lemwarm exist.

Once set up, lemwarm runs on autopilot and lets you know if email deliverability issues arise.

Factor 2: Your technical setup 🧑‍💻

Back in the day, when only trusted corporations and universities used the Internet, email security was not an issue.

Email was an obscure novelty, not accessible, or even attractive, to criminals.

But with the popularization of the Internet, in came the rats.

Since it was so easy to impersonate a trusted website through email with email spoofing, criminals had a field day.

The world's big email senders and receivers, such as Google and Yahoo, knew they had to take action.

Through their initiatives, email authentication methods were created or further developed.

They created three main email authentication protocols that ensure that emails are coming from the domain they claim to be coming from or that the emails' content is authentic and not tampered with during transit.

These email authentication methods are called:

  • SPF (Sender Policy Framework) - This lets you specify which servers can send an email on your domain's behalf.
  • DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) - Ensures that criminals can’t change your emails’ content during transit. Emails that do show changes after being sent, will fail DKIM authentication.
  • DMARC - Let’s you decide what needs to happen to emails that fail one of the authentication methods above and sends you reports on authentication attempts and their results.

All of the above email security protocols must be implemented through DNS records. Typically, this is done in your domain provider or hosting provider's account.

Since these methods enhance security, it only makes sense that email service providers will favor your authenticated emails over unauthorized ones and give you better inbox placement.

Which, of course, will lead to…

A higher open rate!

Factor 3: The (lack of) quality of your emails 📧

Low-quality cookie-cutter emails will undoubtedly boost one crucial metric:

Spam complaints!

And that’s one of the few metrics you actually want to reduce.

Creating high-quality emails is the perfect antidote to spam complaints.

Yes! They take more work. But sending crappy emails is the equivalent of staying on a sinking ship and drowning with it.

In other words, you have no choice.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when creating high-quality emails:

  • Personalize, personalize and personalize your emails. Yeah, we said it three times. That’s how important it is. Recipients love emails that are about them. It makes them feel more valued. Upon receiving a spammy cookie-cutter email, recipients can almost see the spam button expanding and coming closer to their mouse cursor. Even when sending a salesy email, which we don’t recommend, by the way, as long as it’s mostly about them, most people will probably not hit the dreaded spam button.
  • Avoid spam trigger words. Even in personalized non-sales emails, we sometimes unknowingly include spam trigger words like "affordable." This particular word seems innocent enough but could make your campaign bomb. Check this post for more spammy words.
  • Write good subject lines. Here are some quick tips: 1. Keep your subject lines short and sweet. Long subject lines may get truncated and not be completely visible. 2. Add your prospect’s name to the subject line for extra personalization. 3. Ask a (relevant) question to intrigue recipients. They’ll be more motivated to open your email. 4. A/B test your subject line to keep improving them.

Factor 4: List hygiene 🫧

If you send to a poor-quality email list…

You will have a poor open rate.

Now, you may say:

I don't mind having a bad email list; I'll just send more emails to compensate for the low open rate.

The problem with this line of thinking is that the lack of engagement you’ll get will worsen your deliverability over time.

And what will happen then?

You'll have an even lower open rate, leading to even less engagement and worse deliverability.

It’s a negative snowball effect.

In other words:

Not practicing list hygiene is not an option!

Here are the best practices to keep email list hygiene:

  • Verify your leads’ emails. Probably the most important step you can take towards a cleaner email list. Sending to unverified email addresses can leave your email unanswered at best and cause a bounce at worst. Bounces hurt your deliverability. For single-email verification use our simple email verifier below. ⬇
  • Removed bounced emails from your list. If a lead's email bounces, clean it from your list immediately. You don't want to send follow-ups to a bounced email because it will lead to… more bounces, further destroying your sender reputation. The good news is that most email-sending tools, like lemlist, do this automatically.
  • Remove duplicate emails. Email outreach is hard enough already, and now you're gonna send the same email to the same person twice? Oops… They'll likely hit the same spam button twice, too. ;-)
  • Remove inactive leads. After a few emails have remained unopened, it’s time to hit the pause button on leads and remove them from your list. Sending more follow-ups bound to be ignored completely doesn't help your deliverability.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe. What would hurt your deliverability more, a recipient hitting the spam or the unsubscribe button? I guess you know the answer. The problem is that if people don’t see an easy way to unsubscribe, they’ll hit that spam button without hesitation. Make it way easier to unsubscribe than to hit the spam button

Factor 5: Blacklists 🧾

Blacklists are lists that feature suspected spammers.

Even if you don’t directly spam, it’s possible to get on them.

Internet and email service providers check these lists to send any email coming from a domain on the lists to the spam folder.

If you’re on such a list, good luck landing in the inbox!

Email deliverability tool lemwarm lets you know if you’re on a blacklist and advises on how to fix the situation.

The best way not to get on a blacklist is not to send… spam.

Keep all of the factors in this post in mind when doing email outreach and you have a good chance of avoiding blacklists.

Play by the rules and prosper

A big part of improving your open rate is being a good boy or girl and playing by the rules.

Email outreach is not illegal; however, spamming is.

Recklessly sending out email shows that you don’t realize how important open rates still are.

But when it comes to open rates, there’s one question we have left unanswered in this post:

What exactly is a good open rate?


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